A few weeks back the World Series of Poker came to the UK (specifically, dear old London Town) for the first time, and 2 of my clients (both Poker magazines, obviously) jumped at the chance to grab shots of various players whilst they were in the vicinity. So for a few weeks I seemed to be doing nothing other than running round after various gambling types and taking shots with big blank backgrounds that can have stuff comped in afterwards.
The list included: Johnny Chan, Devilfish, Daniel Negreanu, Ram Vaswani, Marc Goodwin, Brian Townsend, and Paul Wasicka. Most of these (except Devilfish and Johnny Chan) were shot in Blank Space studios in Chalk Farm, which I hire from time to time. As always, I can’t go sticking lots of photos up online just yet, as the magazine hasn’t gone to print and I’ll get my wrist slapped. In fact the situation is worse than usual in that since we were taking advantage of the glut of players in London, we shot several months worth, so most of them won’t be visible for quite a while yet. All the studio shoots had a similar brief – to get a cover shot as well as a couple of feature portraits for use inside to accompany interviews etc.
Technically most of these shoots were pretty straightforward. The cover image was always shot the same way, as explained on the Marc Goodwin shoot, I would either turn the polyboards to white or black depending on how contrasty the art director wanted them to be, and on occasions I’d add a 2nd head to either backlight the subject, or throw some colour onto the back wall. All the “feature” shots/portraits were shot in a variety of different ways, including ringflash, softboxes and windowlight mix, ambient and flash mix outside, just ambient, slow-snyc flash and pretty much anything that helped to add a bit of mood or give something an edge when I had only a few minutes with someone.
As so often happens with jobs, it wasn’t the technical side that was interesting, but the people involved. Poker Players are an idiosyncratic lot – maybe it’s the gambling lifestyle that creates some of these idiosyncrasies, or maybe they’re drawn to it in the first place. I can happily report that there were no ego explosions to speak of, though I was amused by the fact that the British players always turned up alone, and the Americans (and 1 Canadian) always brought an entourage. A couple of idiosyncracies: Johnny Chan had completely forgotten about the shoot, and had I not bumped into him as he was leaving his Hotel it would never have happened, Daniel Negreanu couldn’t leave the golf club that we’d brought as a prop alone, and Devilfish was, well, Devilfish really.